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Bullying is a hot topic now. The talk shows want more on bullying, the blogosphere is full to the brim with posts on bullying, and left and right there are speakers on the topic of bullying.
There is a lot of bullying information out there - it is sought after, wanted, and pursued; so why not jump on the bandwagon? Frankly, I haven’t wanted to until now. Until I really had something to say. I am a social worker, mom, and woman. Eventually, I would have something to say on the subject.
As the mom of a tween and a little guy who thinks he is a tween, I witness bullying firsthand every day. I hear kids call other kids fat; I hear moms call other kids fat. I hear kids make fun of another kid’s clothes, house, or background; I hear moms talk despairingly about another family’s means or surroundings. I see kids laugh at other kids in sports, at school, and on the playground; I see moms whispering about other kids on the basketball court, in the school play, and the playground.
Are you seeing the connection here? When I look to the world and witness a child bullying another child, I often see a parent exhibiting the same behavior.
As a mom, there have been numerous times that I felt bullied. Other moms telling me that my choice to bottle-feed was wrong, judging me on my choice to stay home and then return to work, making comments about what I choose to indulge in (donuts), and one brazen woman who had the nerve to suggest that I was wrong for 'allowing' my husband to work in a career that made him completely happy (apparently, I should make him change careers).
Lately, as a blogger, I feel bullied. Bullied by the requests to do stuff for free for people, products, brands that I don’t know or use. As a mom growing a business, I feel bullied by a few of my stay-at-home friends who I try so desperately to continue to make time to see, yet they cannot compromise on the details. I feel bullied into giving up precious work time to meet them on their terms for fear that I will be accused of something awful.
According to the Free Dictionary, A bully is a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. I don’t feel like a weaker person except when I am being bullied. AND, to tell you the truth, I hate that feeling. I despise the feeling of someone who makes me scared or ashamed.
This past weekend, we were at a basketball tournament with the boys and we came up against a team that we have seen before. They are a tough team, a well-practiced team, but unfortunately, a team of bullies. I cannot blame these 11-year-old boys for being bullies. They are learning that it is right to be bullies from someone, and as I watched their coach, I knew exactly who that someone was.
First, their unbelievably HUGE coach demanded our team move off the bench and go to a different bench because his team NEEDED that bench. Although our boys had been at that particular bench all day - with an enormous, towering man standing over them, our team moved. That was scare tactic #1, as our team lost a bit of the vibe after being displaced and needing to settle all over again somewhere new.
Next came the 15 minute argument over which ball we were going to use - what size? Followed by screaming and yelling by BIG BAD coach, we settled on their ball. Scare tactic #2 knocked the wind out of our boys.
Finally, the big blow came - a screaming and yelling like I have never heard by any coach EVER, and I have witnessed a lot of basketball. A mind-numbing, concentration defeating, yelling aimed at scaring our players for the first half of the game. It worked. Our team played scared and we lost. Big win for the bully and his team of minions.
This whole experience coupled with my prior experience with bullying prompted me to ask on Facebook - "As moms, do you ever feel bullied by other moms?"
The answers were repeatedly "Yes." One mom questioned why this happens. Can’t we just stick together? I agree that would be much easier, but in the end, bullying is a scare tactic. A scare tactic to be the winner, the top mom, to make oneself feel the best.
I can tell you one thing for sure - if moms, coaches, and dads cannot stop bullying, our kids certainly cannot stop. Bullying prevention has to start at the top - teachers, parents, coaches need to exhibit the type of behavior we want our kids to learn. As moms, we cannot fall prey to bullying or scare tactics either. Stand up for yourself as a mom, whether you work or not, breast-feed or bottle-feed, believe in junk food or not.
My heart broke for our team of kids this weekend as we lost, but my heart broke more for the team of ‘kids’ who we were being taught an awful lesson in bullying even more.
Where does the bullying stop? At the top? Or the bottom?